From Iceland — Reykjavík's Housing Problem Leaving Locals Out In The Cold

Reykjavík’s Housing Problem Leaving Locals Out In The Cold

Published November 29, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Some Icelanders in Reykjavík are sleeping in tents and cars for lack of affordable housing, while most long-term Airbnb listings in Reykjavík are operating illegally.

Dagur B. Eggertsson, the mayor of Reykjavík, issued a statement on Facebook wherein he says it is “a national shame” that there are people sleeping in the Laugardal camping area against their will for a lack of affordable housing. While he says that Reykjavík has recently bought 144 apartments as an emergency measure to tackle this problem, he also asks whether the national government is going to get involved.

“I ask: does the new government need to relieve the obligations of the municipalities by increasing apartments by law, so that the difference between Reykjavík and other municipalities doesn’t keep increasing?,” he writes. “I hope anyway that the platform of the new government really digs into this, as this is and will be one of the most important projects in politics.”

While working class Icelanders struggle to find a place to live, many properties that could be rented out to locals are instead listed on Airbnb for visitors. In fact, most long-term Airbnb listings in Reykjavík are not legally registered with city. The Housing and Financing Fund estimates that some 1,400 Airbnb apartments in Reykjavík renting out to tourists beyond the 90-day limit are not registered as businesses, as they are required to do, resulting in a loss of revenue upwards of 1 billion ISK.

Even amongst legal Airbnb listings, they comprise nearly 44% of the rental market, and it has started to having a serious impact on available housing for locals.

Whether the new government will institute some kind of policy to alleviate the housing crisis still remains to be seen.

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